Simon and Schuster, the book division of CBS, have introduced the vook™, which they hail as a new form of eBook that integrates text with video illustrations. Of the vooks in the initial launch, two are fiction. The others seem to be what the platform is really designed for: instructional books, promising toned abs and better skin.

The fiction intrigues me, as I’m wondering how they would be able to offer video interjections without losing the level of immersion that print books and fully visual narratives offer. It seems that a Richard Doetsch thriller like Embassy would not want to interrupt its “page-turning suspense” with “dazzling video components that advance the storyline.” Don’t get me wrong, there are ways to join text and video together beautifully, but what sound like video cut-scenes to an otherwise straightforward linear text narrative seems like an awkward way to do it.

It’s a little surprising that none of the members of the 8-person Leadership Team at Vook.com seem to have come from the ebook, hypertext, or publishing worlds. There’s a lot of real-estate talent on view. Meet Peter Richter, the lead engineer:

“ Peter Richter spent the last 11 years working for the GlobalEnglish Corporation which provides an online English Learning service for ESL learners. There he combined his former experience as a teacher with his technological skills to help pioneer the world of eLearning. Peter brings with him the experience of create dynamic, engaging user experiences while architecting sophisticated data driven web applications.”

The company can afford a Brand Director and a Social Marketing Manager and a Creative Director and a VP of Content Development; they might want to get an editor to rethink that “architecting”.

Bob Stein, whose Voyager Expanded Books ploughed this furrow years ago, isn’t impressed.

“Basically it's an ordinary romance novel with video clips interspersed in the pages. In terms of form the result is ho-hum in the extreme, particularly as there doesn't seem to be much attempt to integrate the text and the banal video, which seems to exist simply to pretty-up the pages.

What greatly interests me about these vooks, however, is their accessibility through the iPhone and iPod Touch. I can’t wait to see what new and interesting possibilities writers can come up with using video, sound, and creative use of the touch screen.